Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to a cluster of symptoms that affect the large intestine, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and an increase in flatulence.
Patients with IBS experience these symptoms regularly, and the symptoms occur without any signs of disease or visual damage to the digestive tract itself.
Irritable bowel syndrome is especially common among women under fifty years old, and patients with mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression are also more likely to develop it. To diagnose IBS, doctors perform a physical examination, and some patients may need to have a blood test for celiac disease.
After ruling out other possible causes for the patient’s symptoms, doctors may rely on the Rome or Manning criteria to diagnose this syndrome. Treatment options for IBS include dietary changes and the use of laxatives or fiber supplements.
Anticholinergic medicines might be prescribed to reduce bowel spasms, and newer medicines such as linaclotide, alosetron, and eluxadoline have been specifically designed for irritable bowel syndrome treatment.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Diet Guide
Most doctors recommend significant dietary alterations to help patients manage the symptoms of IBS. The diet guidelines for irritable bowel syndrome outlined below are among the most frequently recommended changes.
Cook All Vegetables
Although vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet for patients with irritable bowel syndrome, doctors and nutritionists typically recommend these patients cook all the vegetables they eat.
Raw foods are more difficult to digest, and some experts believe consuming raw vegetables may lead patients to naturally consume a larger volume of vegetables than they might eat if the vegetables were cooked.
Other researchers note some of the most popular vegetables used in raw salads, including mushrooms, snow peas, celery, and onions, are considered high-FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols) foods.
These foods are poorly absorbed by the intestines, and they are recognized as triggers for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Regardless of the vegetables a patient chooses, cooking a vegetable will make it much easier for the body to digest.
Patients might want to experiment with different cooked vegetables in their diets to see how they respond.
Consume Fruit without Skins
Fruit skins contain insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water and is difficult to digest, so it remains mostly intact as it passes through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber makes stools bulkier, and it enables waste to pass through the bowels quickly.
Eating too much insoluble fiber could worsen symptoms of diarrhea, so IBS patients who have diarrhea as one of their symptoms are often advised to consume fruit without skins.
Since vegetable skins also contain insoluble fiber, individuals struggling to manage their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms may want to peel all of their fruits and vegetables.
Fruits such as bananas may be helpful for patients with IBS. Some patients have reported problems with digesting melons, citrus fruits, and apples.
Avoid Spicy or Fried Food
Generally, patients with irritable bowel syndrome will want to avoid spicy or fried food. Spicy foods frequently contain capsaicin, a substance that could burn or irritate the lining of the stomach or intestines.
However, some spices, including ginger, turmeric, cumin, and coriander are considered safe for IBS patients. When dining out at a restaurant, it may be helpful to ask for a full list of ingredients so any problematic spices can be avoided.
At home, patients may wish to experiment with different types and quantities of spices to discover which ones they can tolerate; keeping a food and symptom diary can be useful for this task.
Doctors typically advise IBS patients to avoid fried foods, as these foods often have a high fat content, and this can make them very hard to digest when irritable bowel syndrome is present.
Frying may even alter the chemical composition of some foods, making them even more difficult to digest. Experts suggest IBS patients opt for low-fat foods when possible, and baking or grilling can help ease digestion.
Increase Fiber Slowly
Since fiber intake can be problematic for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, it is helpful to increase fiber slowly. Studies indicate soluble fiber can reduce IBS symptoms for many patients.
This type of fiber is found in oatmeal, beans, prunes, carrots, and peas. Although bran is another source of soluble fiber, it is known to exacerbate bloating for some patients, so doctors typically suggest alternative soluble fiber sources instead.
Current guidelines for healthy adults advise a daily intake of between twenty-two and thirty-four grams of fiber.
To meet this requirement, doctors suggest IBS patients increase their intake by two to three grams per day; doing so may reduce the bloating and gas that could occur if fiber is consumed too quickly.
In addition to fiber from food, some patients may benefit from taking a fiber supplement, though it is important to consult a physician before use.
While increasing fiber intake, patients will also need to increase their water intake to help with symptom management. Eight to ten cups of water are recommended as a daily guideline for IBS patients.
Enjoy Chicken and Fish
Irritable bowel syndrome patients often find they enjoy chicken and fish as part of their diet. These foods are comprised mostly of protein, which is easy for the body to digest, and since it does not ferment in the gut, it will not cause the patient to have gas.
Experts suggest individuals with IBS choose white meat chicken instead of dark meat. White meat chicken is generally leaner than dark meat, and it does not contain the inflammation-causing fats that may be found in some dark meat.
The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in fish might help irritable bowel syndrome patients reduce the inflammation that contributes to their symptoms.
To avoid potential toxins in fish, IBS patients are advised to choose wild-caught, organic fish instead of factory-raised fish. Salmon, mackerel, herring, white fish, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3s.